What is Osteoporosis?

What is osteoporosis? Osteoporosis is of particular interest to post-menopausal women, but the bone condition also affects other groups of people.   Contents of this article:

  1. What is osteoporosis?
  2. What causes osteoporosis?
  3. Signs and symptoms of osteoporosis?
  4. Osteoporosis tests and diagnosis
  5. Treatment and prevention of osteoporosis

What is osteoporosis?

The origin of the word 'osteoporosis' begins to explain the condition - 'osteo' is for bones, and 'porosis' means porous, resulting in weakness. For people who have osteoporosis, there is a higher risk of breaking a bone during a fall. Osteoporosis is a bone condition that makes bones thinner and more fragile because of reduced bone density, and it puts people at risk of fractures, especially of the hip, spinal vertebrae and wrist. Both men and women are affected, but women more commonly. During their lifetime, half of all postmenopausal women will have an osteoporosis-related fracture, says the US Preventive Services Task Force.

What are the key facts on osteoporosis?

Here are some key points about osteoporosis.
  • § Osteoporosis is a bone disease affecting the bone structure and strength and increasing the risk of fractures.
  • § Postmenopausal women are most likely to get the condition, but it also affects men and younger people.
  • § There are risk factors for osteoporosis, including avoidable causes such as smoking.
  • § Fractures are most likely in the spine, hip and wrists.
  • § Diagnosis is made directly via a special X-ray-based scan, but sometimes an ultrasound.
  • § Treatments include drugs that prevent or slow down bone loss, exercise programs, and dietary adjustments, including extra calcium and vitamin D.

What causes osteoporosis?

A number of risk factors have been identified that raise the likelihood of getting osteoporosis - some of these are modifiable while others cannot be avoided. Non-modifiable risk factors for osteoporosis include:
  • Age - risk increases with age after the mid-30s
  • Being Caucasian or Asian
  • Small bone structure
  • Osteoporosis in the family
  • Previous fracture during a low-level injury, at age over 50 years in particular.
Risk factors for osteoporosis that can be modified include:
  • Reduced sex hormones, particularly in women (less estrogen after the menopause)
  • Anorexia nervosa and bulimia (eating disorders)
  • Tobacco smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Reduced calcium and vitamin D
  • Inactivity or immobility (stress and weight-bearing are needed for bone growth).
Other factors that increase the risk of osteoporosis are diseases or drugs that cause changes in hormone levels, and drugs that reduce bone mass. Hormone-changing diseases include hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism and Cushing's disease. Rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis also increase osteoporosis risk.

 What are the signs and symptoms of osteoporosis?

The bone loss that develops slowly in the course toward osteoporosis does not cause any symptoms or outward signs. The first a patient knows of their osteoporosis may be an unexpected fracture after a minor fall.1,7 A slip or strain - or even a simple cough or sneeze - may result in a fracture. Typical breaks occur in the hip, wrist, or a vertebra collapses in the spine. These latter breaks in the spine lead to a loss of posture - the stooping appearance that is often seen in older people (a spinal deformity called kyphosis).

What tests are used for the diagnosis?

Osteoporosis may be diagnosed directly through the use of a bone scan that measures bone mineral density (BMD). X-ray technology is used in the scanning, known as bone density scanning or bone mineral density test. Two other names for it are dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA for short) and bone densitometry. Combined with the evaluation of risk factors, DXA offers an indication of the likelihood of fractures occurring due to the osteoporosis. The test is also used to track response to treatment.4 Two devices are available for this scan:
  • Central device - hospital-based scan that measures hip and spine bone mineral density while the patient lies on a table
  • Peripheral device - a mobile machine to test bone in the wrist, heel or finger.
The results of the bone mineral density test come as a DXA T-score - a score of not lower than -1.0 is a normal result, while between -1.0 and -2.5 represents mild bone loss.2 Osteoporosis is diagnosed when the T-score is -2.5 or below. After DXA, the second most common testing option in the US does not involve radiation: quantitative ultrasonography of the calcaneus (heel bone), a method using ultrasound that can also be carried out in the primary care setting. It is not as widely used as DXA, however, and the measurements cannot be compared against DXA T-scores.

How can treat and prevent osteoporosis?

Fracture risks can be lowered by preventive lifestyle measures against osteoporosis and drug treatments also have a preventive role against bone loss. The lifestyle measures that help to maintain a healthy bone mineral density and prevent fractures are:
  1. Get enough calcium (about 1,000-1,200 mg a day, with a higher amount needed by women over 50 and everyone over 70).
  2. Get enough vitamin D (sunshine enables vitamin D production, so preventing being housebound helps; it is available from egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver; the daily recommended amount is 600 international units, and 800 IU in men and women over 70)
  3. Stop smoking if applicable.
  4. Drink alcohol only in moderation.
  5. Exercise - weight-bearing exercise, including simple walking, promotes healthy bone and strengthens support from muscles.
For people who already have osteoporosis, nutrition, exercise and falls prevention play their part in reducing risks and bone loss. Lifestyle modification therefore plays a very significant preventive role . Originally published at: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/155646.php

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons